Prisoners of the Great War Send Home Picture Postcards

by Alexander Kolchinskiy, PhD Posted: 2015-08-24 Samovar Email the Link to this Exhibit

Exhibit Categories: CensorshipImperialSocial PhilatelyWorld War I

Prisoners of the Great War

The total number of POWs of the Great War approached eight million. Most of them were held in Russia (2.4M), Germany (2.4M), and Austria-Hungary (between 1.2 and 1.9M). The treatment of prisoners was regulated by the Hague Convention, signed by all major belligerents.

In particular, the prisoners were allowed to correspond with their home countries postage-free. The captor countries had to supply the POWs with blank postcards, and most of the surviving mail of POWs is written on such formular cards. At the same time, quite a few prisoners sent home PPCs, which required additional effort and expenses to procure. The visual message of these postcards supplemented the text. It was often especially important because of the censorship of POW mail.

The exhibit is divided into Chapters corresponding to the countries of captivity. Within each Chapter, if necessary, the mail is arranged according to its destination. When appropriate, non-PPC material is added as a means of social commentary to the conditions of captivity.